Updated: Sep 17, 2018
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the “Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” In the reflection I focused on the vertical dimension of the Christian existence. But vertical lines alone don't make a cross yet. Christian life includes the horizontal dimension as well. It essentially contains a world-view, not only a “God-view.”
The cross, the symbol of Christian faith, does not only point skyward, its beams stretch out outwards as if to embrace the world. Now, the foremost “components” of our world are the persons that surround us. In fact, Christian existence can never be understood as an isolated life. We form part of a people, a community, an age and a culture. Christ's message always implies the love for our neighbors. Christ taught us how to love God, but He also wanted to show us how to love our neighbors. How?
Above all, He Himself chose to enter into a human relationship with us. He became one of us, very much in order to speak our language; to pronounce his love in our language; to teach us the ultimate “love language.” Like one would do with any other language, He taught it by "speaking" it. In order to teach us how to love our neighbor, He Himself sought for the company of His neighbors and loved them in a way that we could imitate. This school lasted all His life, it lasted all the way up to the moment of His death on the cross.
Today we commemorate the most important company on Calvary: Mary, who was there with her son. Her presence underlines the fact that the cross is not only a vertical bridge between God and man, but also a horizontal one between Christ and the world. Christ hung on the cross for us men after all. And, looking down, Christ's eyes found the one who best could represent humanity: His most pure Mother. Nobody understood the meaning of that suffering quite like she did. Nobody had learned to understand the language which Christ had come to teach. She deciphered God's love language in the horrfying scene of the crucifiction and, consequently, she was able to respond in similar terms: by suffering with her son, standing by his side. The sorrow was cruel but it did not break her; the injustice was overwhelming but she did not turn bitter; her loss was supreme but she lived it as an immolation instead of falling into despair. Mary had learned the language of love. She understood the sign of the cross. And she knew how to respond. Thus, when Jesus and Mary were looking at each other on Calvary, their hearts engaged in a deep, sorrowful colloquium of love.
Thus, we commemorate Mary's suffering today because it meant a supreme example of “love language”. The horizontal dimension of life - relationships - brings suffering with them. Standing by a friend often feels like standing by the cross. But no love is greater than putting down your life for another person. Look at Jesus and Mary! Listen to the language of their hearts and learn how to speak God's "love language."
Mary, dear mother, by your example you taught me how suffering can be turned into love. Teach me that language, I ask you. Intercede before your son for the grace to learn how to understand and how to speak that language. On this day, I want to praise you for your beautiful motherly love and offer you my own stammering attempts to live and love like you.